Budget talks among the two parties began at the staff level this week at the White House, according to Democratic leaders, who emphasized the need to reach a deal as quickly as possible.
Democrats’ goals include setting topline spending levels, identifying spending offsets, ensuring defense and non-defense spending is raised by equal amounts, and resolving disputes over GOP riders, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Thursday.
“Our top priority is lifting the sequester caps,” said Reid, reported CQ.
Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated they would like to wrap up negotiations so Congress can avoid bumping up against the Dec. 11 expiration date of the continuation resolution signed into law on Wednesday.
“Leader Pelosi and I are really going to stress, more than anything else … speed,” Reid said.
Pelosi suggested that raising the debt limit could be part of the negotiations. “We want to remove all doubt in the public’s mind that the government will be there,” she said. “That governance will take place, that the investments that need to be made will be made and that some of the other issues that I mentioned will be addressed, like the debt ceiling,” she said.
Democrats’ focus on securing budget relief from the Budget Control Act caps for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies sets up a bruising battle with Republicans. While defense hawks in the GOP are insisting on higher funding levels for the Pentagon, fiscal conservatives are fighting to preserve the spending caps, especially on non-defense agencies.